Adrianna Amari's Prayer for the Morning Headlines and the Uses of Grief

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“The strong emotions and social disruption engendered by death have always given grief a potential for politicization, whether it finds its voice in the laments of village women, the gay poet’s elegy, or the war memorial.”
-Gail Holst-Warhaft, The Cue for Passion: Grief and Its Political Uses (Harvard, 2000)

During the 90s Adrianna Amari was photographing statuary in Baltimore cemeteries, where she discovered images of foundational human experiences – sorrow, loss, myth, memory, the need for tradition and ritual, and the interconnection of sky, earth and weather with man-made craft. Her empathic photos waited through a series of personal meetings with mortality in her own life until meeting Father Daniel Berrigan, the poet, peace activist and Catholic priest who famously napalmed draft files outside of a draftboard near Baltimore in 1968. Amari suggested to Berrigan the publication of a volume of his selected poetry in juxtaposition with her images. When he agreed, she writes that she noticed that she “had unknowingly been taking pictures for his poems all along.”

The result was published in 2007 by the student-run Apprentice Press (also in Baltimore) as Prayer for the Moring Headlines: On the Sanctity of Life and Death. It’s an extraordinary collection melding the most deeply personal, immediate, overwhelming and little-talked-about feelings of grief with a broad view of which acknowledges the value of all of that seemingly chaotic intensity in justifying and reordering the world – in art, politics, social change and the day-to-day interpersonal action. Howard Zinn describes the subject of it in his introduction to the book as, “life and death, the prayer that comes with commitment, the hope that comes with resistance, the visions of a world where peace and justice prevail.” Inspirational and core stuff to find in a graveyard.

Berrigan’s “You Finish It: I Can’t”

The world is somewhere visibly round,
perfectly lighted, firm, free in space,

but why we die like kings or
sick animals, why tears stand
in living faces, why one forgets

the color of the eyes of the dead–

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About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in the rural wilderness of Joshua Tree, California, where I am a partner in JTHomesteader.com with Stephanie Smith.

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